Rashid Khan displays enormous mental strength to bounce back after thrashing against England

Afghanistan's Rashid Khan celebrates taking the wicket of India's MS Dhoni
Afghanistan's Rashid Khan celebrates taking the wicket of India's MS Dhoni
©Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs
 

To understand Rashid's psyche, you have to trace the path from where he kicked off his cricketing journey. The 20-year-old started playing the game in a strife-torn Afghanistan and has seen life and death from very close quarters, and when you experience life at its crudest form, you ought to become a tough nut.


You cannot keep a champion down for long. Even the best in the business have an off-day. The likes of Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, Shaun Pollock, Muttiah Muralitharan and Malcolm Marshall have also been under the pump sometime or the other.

A sub-par tournament for the Afghan

After conceding 110 runs in his previous match against England and becoming the spinner to concede most runs in ODI Cricket, Rashid Khan came back strongly in the very next game against India and proved that the match against England was an anomaly.

Ranked number three in the ICC ODI bowler rankings and number one in the ICC T20I bowler rankings, Rashid Khan came into this tournament with the reputation of a giant slayer. However, he could only produce figures of 1-52 against Australia, 2-17 against Sri Lanka, 0-45 against South Africa and 0-110 against England.


The England outing aside, the rest of the performances, as you can see, were not bad enough to be frowned upon, but it was certainly not up to the mark with what we have come to expect of Rashid.

Difference between the approach of the English and the Indian batsmen

After his confidence took a hit against England, another big match against India was lined up. As Rashid came in to ball, he was greeted with a boundary by Virat Kohli on his first ball which served to keep him under pressure. However, the leg-spinner found a way of coming back into the match and bowled some tight overs thereafter.

In his second spell, the match situation helped the leggie as India were under the cosh for the most part that he bowled and the likes of Kedar Jadhav and MS Dhoni were not taking any chances against him.

Rashid is one bowler who becomes extremely dangerous if you sit back in the crease and allow him to do his thing. That is the case especially on pitches that offer turn, because he bowls quick through the air and a batsman does not get time to react as the ball shoots quickly off the surface.

After Eoin Morgan initially attacked him in the last game, he lost his length and was all over the place. The 20-year-old then resorted to short of a length and got hit repeatedly at the end. He either went too full or bowled half-trackers and did not seem to know where to bowl.

The Indian batsmen allowed him to settle into his rhythm and paid the price. Rashid ended with figures of 1-38 and bowled with an economy of under four. In the process, he stifled one of the greatest ODI finishers MS Dhoni and ultimately dismissed him. Interestingly, this was the first time that Dhoni was stumped since the 2011 World Cup.

Unprecedented off-day

Rashid Khan has been a consistent wicket-taker in T20 leagues all over the world. He has been sensational in the IPL and has taken 55 wickets from 46 matches at an average of just over 21. His economy of under seven is commendable and the bowler has a strike rate of under 20. In the 2019 IPL season as well, he picked up 17 wickets from 15 matches at an economy of just over six.

Likewise, in the BBL, Rashid as picked up 37 wickets from 25 matches at an economy rate of under six and a strike rate of just over 16.

This is why when he got absolutely smacked to all parts of the park, something he had not copped before, there were claims that his confidence might take a serious beating after that.

"I am not thinking too much about that match. People forget 10 good days and conveniently remember that one particular bad day. They don't like to remember what Rashid did on previous 10 days. I would focus on the mistakes I committed in that match and rectify those in the coming matches. No point thinking about the criticism. I need to keep things simple," Rashid had said after the game against England, playing down the effect of his nightmarish performance.

The source of Rashid's mental strength

"Rashid, I think he's one of the strongest mind players now, so he learns everything very quickly. He does not think about the last day or what happened the day before. He's just focusing on the present and the future. So that's the best thing about Rashid," skipper Gulbadin Naib had said before the match against India and this is exactly what the leg-spinner portrayed.

To understand Rashid's psyche, you have to trace the path from where he kicked off his cricketing journey. The 20-year-old started playing the game in a strife-torn Afghanistan and has seen life and death from very close quarters, and when you experience life at its crudest form, you ought to become a tough nut.

A war is after all much more mentally challenging than getting hit for a few runs in a one day match, and hence it is hardly a surprise that Rashid remains unaffected from one-off bad days on the field.

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England vs New Zealand - Match Highlights | ICC Cricket World Cup 2019